Driving and Traffic

Photo from Dreamstime


I interviewed Sue and Gary from the U.K. and Sally and Shaun from South Africa at the same time. There was an interesting conversation about the differences between driving in both of those place and in Calgary.

SUE    In England you have to have a road safety vehicle test and it’s very stringent. You would have to go every year after your car is 3 years old. You wouldn’t see cars on the road that shouldn’t be on the road, the rusty buckets.

GARY   I think driving here is poor. It’s very structured in England. You have your slow lane, your middle lane and the overtaking lane and the only time you go in the overtaking lane is to overtake. I remember my first day of work, I had a Chevy Nova and I had to drive down around Chinook. I was driving in the middle lane and this car passed me at a high speed on the outside lane. That would not have happened in England, it would be a huge fine. And the semi trucks in England could only drive in the slow lane.

SHAUN   And then you get the other extreme, South African cars! Compared to there, the cars here are a dream.

SALLY    And the drivers are marvelous, like model drivers!

SHAUN    I worked in a refinery where we used 16 seater vans and they would sell them off after 2 years, and this one van was on its chassis but literally leaning 30 degrees. It had been in an accident and they hadn’t bothered fixing it, and they sold it. And the guy they sold it to used it for at least 3 years after that!

SALLY   In South Africa we didn’t have to prove we had car insurance, we didn’t even have to have insurance. So if somebody hit you who didn’t have insurance, it was awful.

SUE   The other thing about vehicles here is we couldn’t get over the truck culture. A friend was talking about a friend who just got a new truck, and I couldn’t figure out why he would need a truck. At home you wouldn’t have a truck unless you were a labourer who needed a truck for your work.

*     *      *     *     *

“There were no trucks where we came from” Reza says. “The fuel is more expensive compared to Canada and driving a truck would be very costly. Not just Iran, but also in Europe. The biggest vehicle would be like a Honda CRV. So a truck is like a tank for me.”

Reza explains about driving in Iran. “In Iran, if you obey the rules on the roads you are a freak. No one does. At an intersection back home even if the light is green you still have to check all ways because no one cares about the lights. When I was doing driver training in Calgary I would slow down as I approached the intersections and the instructor asked me what I was doing. I would say ‘I just need to make sure no one is coming through the red light.’ He said ‘You don’t have to worry about that here.’ It was very difficult. Using the signal at home? Nobody does it. And the horn! Here I have only used my horn once, maybe two times and I am pretty sure once was just to make sure my car had a horn. At home, the horn is part of the driving culture. If you are trying to pass a car you have to press the horn. You have to, because you have to warn that car, Hey I am going to pass you! But here, it’s not the same.”

Azi adds “Here it is nice and quiet and much easier to drive.”

Ruback agrees. “The best part of driving in Canada is the signs. It’s easier here because people pay attention to the signs. You need to be more careful when you are back home. In the South Asian countries they do not follow the signs. My friend tells me that now in the bigger cities like Karachi now they don’t even pay attention to the stoplights.”


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